How to master proper breathing technique for swimming

You will scarcely spare much of a thought about how or when you are breathing in and out when you are walking around on land it is very much an unconscious act which will seamlessly adjust to your pace and activity level. Yet as soon as one jumps into the water, breathing becomes much more of an intentional action which requires focus to control and grow accustomed to. Breathing is an integral part of swimming and an important skill to learn and master in order to progress in the discipline, be it at an Olympic or beginner level.

Just like with any skill, mastering the proper swimming breathing technique requires learning and practice, so here are 5 tips to help you get started.

1 Wear Goggles

When jumping into the pool, it is already enough to have to worry about preventing water from entering your airways to not have to be unsettled by it getting into your eyes. Wearing a pair of swimming goggles removes the additional discomfort and will make you feel more confident in the water so that you can focus all your attention on your breathing.

A key element to mastering correct breathing is to maintain a good balance and alignment in the water – which inevitably requires one’s head to be submerged. Keeping your surroundings in sight will help keep you more stable in the water by helping you maintain a proper form.

2 Keep your head neutral in the water

Whether you are swimming freestyle or breaststroke, you should always try to keep your neck relaxed and head in a neutral position whenever it is underwater. Even though you might be tempted to lift your head back, this will only tip your body out of alignment and cause water to enter your nose. If you practice lowering your face into the water parallel to the surface, you will notice that there is a natural air pressure within your nostrils which will prevent the water from flowing in.

3 Exhale slowly and continuously

You can exhale through your nose, mouth or even both simultaneously. This will largely depend on personal preference, and it might be worth trying out the different ways to find which one you feel most comfortable with.

You should try to exhale slowly and continuously instead of holding your breath until the last minute. This will help you avoid having to gasp for breath and instead encourage you to find a more rhythmic and natural breathing pattern.

4 Breathe in at the right time

Although your natural instinct will do a good job at reminding you when to breathe, each swimming style has an optimal breathing window which allows you to take in a breath and continue swimming without any abrupt interruptions.
If you are swimming freestyle, you should start breathing in as soon as your arm and face come out of the water. For breaststroke, you should breathe in as your arms sweep into the water by lifting your head above the surface.

5 Coordinate your breathing with your strokes

The rhythm of your swim stroke and breathing should be synchronised as closely as possible to help you maintain your pace and swim faster. If you already feel confident in your swimming technique, use the pace of your movements to time your inhaling and exhaling accordingly. The position of your arms is what creates your breathing windows so that you can judge when and how much breath you should be taking in. For freestyle for example, you should have exhaled all of your air just before your arm exits the water and similarly have breathed in by the time it starts to pull back.

The best way to coordinate and time your breathing and swimming will vary from person to person as it depends on a number of factors which can be both physical and personal - from height and lung capacity to speed and preference. Your breathing pace may also very much differ depending on the swimming style and distance covered so you should try to practice proper breathing technique to become confident across a range of different techniques.

Get a taste of summer at your local swimming pool: Find a swimming class near you

If you feel like you have applied all these tips and are still swallowing large gulps of water every time you go swimming, or you simply wish to have some additional guidance on how to master proper breathing technique, getting a private swimming instructor can help. Going Swimmingly London offers private swimming classes for children and adults of all levels in and around London. If you are keen to learn how to swim or improve your existing technique, you can get in touch today to book a session on your next available date.